Turkiye’s opposition pledges to undo Erdogan’s legacy

January 31, 2023

ANKARA: Turkiye´s opposition vowed on Monday to undo President Recep Tayyip Erdogan´s two-decade legacy of Islamic-rooted rule and expand democratic freedoms if they take power in crucial May 14 elections.

The six parties united against Erdogan also pledged to decide on February 13 on a joint candidate in the presidential vote -- widely seen as Turkiye´s most consequential in generations. The opposition´s 2,300-point programme aims to roll back many of the powers Erdogan has wrested from parliament and ministries in the latter years of his tumultuous rule.

It limits the president to a seven-year term and makes an empowered new prime minister accountable to lawmakers. “We will shift to a strengthened parliamentary system,” the programme says.

“We will put an end to the president´s power to issue decrees.” Turkiye´s role as a strategic member of Nato and key player in wars ranging from Syria to Ukraine makes the upcoming vote vital for its traditional Western allies.

Erdogan has developed increasingly close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin while tightening social freedoms and flouting European court rulings to free his jailed opponents. Western powers have tried to stay out of the election to avoid drawing Erdogan´s ire.

But US President Joe Biden suggested in a TV interview conducted during his 2020 election campaign that Washington should help “elements” of the Turkish opposition “take on and defeat Erdogan”.

Erdogan began his rule in 2003 as prime minister and was elected president -- at the time a more ceremonial post -- when his mandates ran out in 2014. He then rammed through constitutional changes in 2017 that eliminated the premiership and created a powerful new executive which allowed the president to effectively rule by decree.

The opposition pledged to change the constitution back to the way things worked throughout most of Turkiye´s post-Ottoman history. Constitutional changes can be ratified by 400 votes in the 600-seat parliament.

They can also be put up for a national vote if the opposition gathers the 360 votes needed to trigger a constitutional referendum. The opposition´s pledge to rewrite the constitution adds particular importance to the legislative polls being conducted alongside the presidential ones. Opinion polls point to a tightly contested election that is too close to call.